Friday, June 13, 2014

Celebrating the Chesapeake

There is always something to learn on a boat. Sometimes, it is a small thing – like accidentally discovering a quick shortcut to measuring distances on the iPad navigation software. Sometimes it is bigger and more critical. You learn a lot about yourself. Maybe it is because you have more time to notice how you act and react. Maybe it is because you just get put into so many situations that test your personality. Life moving a sailboat can be stressful, dangerous, embarrassing and tiring. Those are all really bad influencers on the decision making process. Every time you get through one of those situations and perform well, you feel better. Rising to the occasion can really improve your confidence. Sometimes, you struggle. Then, you get to have a ‘growth  experience’ – that’s where you get to question every aspect of your abilities - but that is not the subject today. You also learn to let yourself be happy. If something works out well, celebrate!

This morning, we are celebrating. We are sitting in Lankford Bay Marina, just off of the Chester River – across from Annapolis and near Rock Hall, Maryland. We are here for a small gathering of Cabo Rico owners and boats. We are just happy to be here. Not because we survived a calamity or nearly lost the boat or anything of the sort. In fact, this trip up the Chesapeake Bay has gone very smoothly so far. In many ways, it has been a confirmation of the things we have learned over the past couple of years. Our confidence with handling the boat and dealing with situations has grown (see ’growth experience’ above). We are probably at that dangerous phase of our sailing career where we may get cocky and screw up.

We moved up the Bay pretty quickly once we left Gloucester after Junie’s birthday on Sunday. Monday morning we were out early, sailed out of the York River and turned north. We anchored that night in Little Bay just north of Deltaville. We expected to be nearly alone in a fairly isolated spot. Wrong! We were the last of 20 boats to show up.

We were also the first to leave in the morning. The wind had died at the end of the day before and was predicted to remain dead. We had decided that, since we would have to motor all day anyway, we might as well crank out a long, fast day and see how far we could get. So, we postponed our planned stop at Solomon’s and set our sights on Herring Bay. The anchor was up and we were gone at 5:20 am.
We made really good time. We crossed the mouth of the Potomac River which can be a nasty place in the wrong conditions. It is the second largest water contributor to the Bay and it is a long ways across. For us, however, it was a mild and uneventful experience. We blew past the turn for Solomon’s by noon and just kept cranking. Up past Calvert Cliffs, we got some excitement for a while. We heard the severe thunderstorm warnings from the Coast Guard on the radio and, shortly thereafter, saw some dark clouds sneaking up behind. We took down the sails we had been flying to motorsail, put some assorted electronics into the oven for lightning protection, and strapped everything down.

The approaching storm was clearly visible on our radar. When we first got SeaClearly, we knew nothing about radar. We were convinced that people had joined together in a large conspiracy to lie about how much you could see – storms, markers, boats. We, typically, saw purple blobs. Seemingly random purple blobs. The concept of actually seeing a squall and avoiding it by looking at your radar was hard to grasp given our experience. But, with a little research and some cramming with the operator’s manual, we had tuned it up, made some adjustments and dialed it in. It became the invaluable tool we had heard about on our winter trip south.  Yes, you really can see markers (which aren't always on the charts), small working boats in the fog, fast sport-fishers closing from behind - and rain.

Storm coming!
Yellow = land
White = water
Purple = rain!
Now, in the Chesapeake Bay, we see the squall on the radar. We can easily see which way it is going. And, we can see that we are in the only small area across the entire width of the Bay that is not being hammered. Even where we were, it got incredibly dark. The water turned coal black. The wind gusted some but not much. However, not far away there was some serious action.  There was a classic storm-on-the-water view with a wave of curling white clouds rising ahead of an ominous deep grey storm that looked like it was flattening the Bay. We barely even had raindrops. We scooted out from under our clouds and back into the sunshine having squeezed through a quarter-mile wide corridor.

30 minutes after the storm
By hour 12, we were passing Herring Bay and had decided to just keep going to Galesville. After all, it is June. We have over 15 hours of daylight so let’s burn it! So, at a little before 8:00 pm, we arrived in the West River and anchored not too far from Thursday’s restaurant for a very quiet night in the middle of a small town. We covered a large portion of the Bay in our long travel day.

The next day, we only needed to move around the corner to Harness Creek. We had plans to meet up with Junie’s friend John and his wife Debbie. They were going to bring their boat out to meet us at anchor later in the afternoon. Which also gave us a large part of the day for something really special.

Sailing the Chesapeake off
of Annapolis
We went sailing. Yes, that’s right. We just went sailing. We took SeaClearly out for a play day on the Chesapeake. The winds were out of the southeast at 12 – 18 knots, seas were minimal. We put up the full rig and went whatever direction felt the best. We played with different sails. As the wind clocked slowly around, we sailed near the wind, reached across the wind and sailed downwind. Annapolis and the Thomas Point lighthouse provided the backdrop for a great day. After all the cruising, motoring, bashing and ICW running we have put her through, SeaClearly deserved this and so did we.

We finally turned toward Harness Creek and, this time, we were alone in a, surprisingly, isolated spot. We were in a cove just off of the state park. Our view off the bow was just trees. The view behind did include a few of those quaint Annapolis-area waterfront homes. OK, not quaint. Keeping up with the Jones’ in this neighborhood would be impossible. John and Debbie cruised in and rafted up with us. Junie made pizza (obviously, not too hot outside) and we had a nice evening. 

Yesterday morning (Thursday, for those of you that still use calendars - sorry), we left our anchorage with the intention of picking up a mooring ball at Rock Hall. It was damp, foggy and threatening rain at 7:00 am but we got the anchor up and all of the thick grey mud cleaned off the chain. The rain came moments later. We could ‘see’ several other boats on radar and AIS. We could ‘see’ the Route 50 Bridge on radar but not with our eyes. The large, southbound container ship that showed up on AIS announced his intention to pass under the bridge. We called him, told him where we were and he indicated we would do a starboard-to-starboard pass. Since his starboard side is much bigger than ours, we swung away from the channel and waited a few minutes until he came looming out of the fog.

It rained all day and got progressively harder. By the time we reached the turn into Swan Creek at Rock Hall, we had changed our minds about our destination. As Junie said, the vision of picking up a mooring ball and taking the cute trolley around Rock Hall wasn’t looking so good given the pouring down rain. We did a hard turn and headed for the Chester River to arrive at Lankford Bay Marina a day early. Our friend Thierry (Cabo Rico 42 # 12) was already anchored in Swan Creek and expecting us. Junie texted him to let him know about our change in plans. He had already seen our course change on his AIS and knew we weren’t coming. But, we would be seeing him tomorrow.

We made a stop at the fuel dock (in the rain), then swung around to our slip (in the rain)and cleaned up the boat (in the rain). Last night, we tried to dry out. We got off of the boat for the first time since leaving Gloucester on Sunday. We did some laundry and took long showers at the marina. And, finally, I get to catch up on the blog. From our slip, we can see another Cabo Rico. Today, there will be more – maybe only a few but it doesn’t take too many Cabo Ricos to make a rendezvous.  I think I see the sun! Time to celebrate!

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